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Posts Tagged ‘Catherine Isaac’

Crony Watch!

18 November 2012 22 comments

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Cronywatch*…

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…Keeping an eye on dodgy government appointees, crony-by-crony!

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In this on-going Thread, I will be reporting on blatant political cronyism from this current government. Considering that the NBR ceased their version of  “Cronywatch” in late 2008, I thought it would be helpful if folks knew what John Key and his government were up to.

Cronyism is when appointments to various quangos, Boards, organisations, departments, and even unofficial positions, are made for no other apparent reason than their membership, or close affialiation to, the National government. Governments do this for various reasons; to keep on eye on things; to try to influence decision-making; to ensure that their policies are carried out according to their agenda; and perhaps even a bit of  ‘pay back‘.

This sort of thing was/is verey commonplace under authoritarian regimes where democracy and an independent civil service are alien concepts. So it is more than a little disturbing when we find such occurrences here, in little old Godzone.

So every time I find a political appointee, I’ll report it here. With each up-date added to this Thread, I’ll ‘bump‘ it back up to the top of Recent Posts.

And now for some cronies…

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Catherine Isaac

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Catherine Isaac

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Catherine Isaac,

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

Despite having zero experience in the education sector, Ms Isaac was appointed by ACT MP, John “I-Don’t-Know-I-Can’t-Recall”  Banks to chair the Charter School Working Group. Ms Isaac’s only tenuous links to educatuion is that she has served on a School Board. (In which case, I look forward to serving on a DHB and thereafter beginning  a practice in brain surgery…)

As most folk know, Charter Schools is an ACT policy. Ms Isaac was appointed by ACT MP, John “What-helicopter-flights?” Banks.  And Ms Isaac is an ACT Party member, ex-candidate, and President.

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Belinda Milnes

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Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has appointed a former official from her own office to the board of the Families Commission.

Belinda Milnes, a former senior policy adviser for Mrs Bennett, has been appointed to the commission for three years.

The minister has been unavailable to discuss the appointment, but in a statement says Ms Milnes understands social policy and is the best person for the job.”

Source: Radio NZ – Bennett appoints former official to commission board

Interestingly, Paula Bennett made no mention of Ms Milnes’ connection with her office when she released this media statement,

” Social Development Minister Paula Bennett today announced two new appointments to the Families Commission.

Sir Peter Gluckman and Belinda Milnes have been appointed to the Board of the Families Commission for a period of three years.

The Families Commission is currently undergoing a restructure to assume its new role providing independent monitoring, evaluation and research.

“We’ve appointed the best people for the job to oversee a major change programme within the Families Commission,” says Mrs Bennett.

The Government is reprioritising a minimum of $14.2 million of the $32.48 million funding the Families Commission receives over four years to set up a new Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (SuPERU).

“This unit will provide research and best practise advice to government and non-government organisations,” says Mrs Bennett.

This unit will independently monitor and evaluate programmes and initiatives in the social sector, a job currently done largely by Government Departments.

“I believe giving this role to an independent body will see more community organisations entering into robust evaluation and monitoring”. “

Source: Appointments to Families Commission

I wonder how much ” independent monitoring, evaluation and research” will be produced by the new “Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit ” when it is staffed by National Party appointees who have been functionaries within a Minister’s office?

At least the Minister will hear only what she wants to hear, with no pesky dissenting opinions upsetting her day…

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Richard Long

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Former National Party chief of staff Richard Long has been appointed to the board of TVNZ.

[…] He spent two years as chief of staff for National leaders Bill English and Don Brash after leaving the Dominion in 2002.”

Source: Former National Party chief of staff appointed to TVNZ board

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Katherine Rich (#2)

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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Frank  Macskasy Blog  Frankly Speaking

(L-R) National MPs Simon Powell, Katherine Rich, former National leader Don Brash, National MPs Nathan Guy and Gerry Brownlee applaud John Key as he delivers his speech as the New Zealand National Party launch their election campaign at Sky City on October 12, 2008 in Auckland, New Zealand.

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The latest cronyist-appointment is (again)  former National MP and CEO  of the Food and Grocery Council,  Katherine Rich, to the newly formed  Health Promotion Agency.

The Council  represents a $15 billion food and beverage industry and exerts considerable influence on food legislation and trade practices.

The Council was a vocal opponant, and campaigned against,   mandatory inclusion of vitamin B9 (folic acid) in bread (to prevent crippling  birth defects such as spina bifida) and  anti-obesity proposals such as taxing  sugar. It supports liberal trading policies for alcohol.

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

The Health Promotion Agency incorporates  the Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC), the Health Sponsorship Council and other  promotion work by the Ministry of Health.

ALAC was an organisation tasked with addressing the growing incidence of alcohol abuse in this country. This increasingly destructive social  problem  has been calculated to be a $4 billion-plus crisis in our society, wasting valuable health, police, judicial, and ACC  resources, and impacting on employment and family life.

It therefore seems somewhat incongruous to appoint a person who  in deeply involved in the alcohol industry in a government body that has a role in identifying and addressing alcohol problems in our society.

In fact, one could see this as a conflict of interest. John Key’s bland assurances therefore sound rather hollow,

I’m comfortable that she’ll be able to manage any conflict….It’s important that a board has a range of different views.” – Source

Key’s views on the Food and Grocery Council’s emotion-laden campaign against folic acid was no less derisable,

The debate wasn’t around whether folic acid might or might not work. It was about people’s rights to have that put in every piece of bread. There’s quite a difference there.”

Unfortunately,  Mr Key fails to realise that foetuses deprived of this critical vitamin B9; are born with spina bifida; and spend their entire (shortened) lives in a wheelchair, have no such “rights” to choose. Foetuses rely on adults to consume appropriate foods and beverages.

Way to go, Mr Key. The manipulation of public opinion on this issue  by the Food and Grocery Council was predicated on saving money for the food industry.

But it’s taxpayers who have to pick up the medical and welfare tab for people with neural tube defects (spina bifida).

That, plus the Food and Grocery Council’s staunch advocacy for the proliferation of alcohol retailing, makes Ms Rich wholly inappropriate for this new government body.

Ms Rich has neo-liberal views on the production and retailing of alcohol,

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) and Alcohol Advisory Council (Alac) strongly backed the recommendations.

Alac chief executive Gerard Vaughan said it set out a clear objective of reducing alcohol-related harm which stretched to structure and role changes for the district licensing agencies responsible for managing liquor licensing in their own communities.

Communities up and down the country were sick of the violence and vandalism that came with drinking and that proposed changes to licencing regimes would help address the problem, Mr Vaughan said.

Nearly 3000 submissions were received by the commission, many of which supported the tightening of laws around alcohol sales, purchasing and consumption.

But NZ Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said the report reflected “classic nanny state thinking.”

It failed to target those causing the problems and punished everyone, she said. The industry was already one of the most regulated, and more sensible ways to approach existing problems included better enforcement of current rules and better use of legal powers, along with industry-led initiatives.”   Source

Final word to someone more concerned with social issues (rather than profits),

Professor Sellman says supermarkets normalise alcohol as an ordinary commodity and sell it by the tonne at ultra-cheap prices up to 24 hours a day.

He believes Ms Rich’s appointment is a major conflict of interest and indicates the Government wants to have the alcohol industry strongly represented in its preparations for the new agency.

“Seventy percent of the alcohol that’s sold in New Zealand comes through supermarkets and here we have a person in Katherine Rich who’s a staunch defender of the excessive commercialisation of alcohol, particularly though supermarkets, and she’s on a board that is presumably about decreasing the heavy drinking culture”. Source, Radio NZ

See:   Lobbyist appointment no conflict: Key

See:   BERL Report Costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use

See:   Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association: Folic acid and neural tube defects in New Zealand: a cautionary tale?

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Other blogs

The Standard: Katherine Rich on the Health Promotion Board: The next outrageous piece of Nat cronyism

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Roger Sowry

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Roger Sowry has been a National Party MP from 1990 to 2005 – five consecutive terms.  The first two terms were as MP for Kapiti, the latter three as a Party List MP.  He became Chief Executive of Arthritis New Zealand, and then worked at Saunders Unsworth,as a “consultant on Government matters” (ie; lobbyist).

Party positions held:

  • National MP 1990 – 2005
  • 1993, appointed Junior Party Whip
  • 1995, appointed Senior Party Whip
  • 1996, appointed Minister for Social Welfare
  • 1998, appointed Minister of Social Services, Work and Income; Minister in charge of War Pensions;  Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation; and Associate Minister of Health
  • Appointed Deputy Leader of  National Government from October 2001 to October 2003

Government appointments:

Prime Minister John Key said he would not describe Mr Sowry as a party hack and he was qualified for the job.   “We are not going to preclude people solely because they’ve been involved with the National Party. If we were to do that then the talent pool is going to be substantially reduced,” Mr Key said. – Source

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Wyatt Creech

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Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Judy Kirk

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Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Jim McLay

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Party positions held:

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Penny Webster

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Party Positions held:

Government appointments:

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Brian Neeson

Ravi Musuku

Ken Shirley

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(L-R) Brian Neeson – Ken Shirley – Ravi Musuku

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All three men were appointed to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.  All three have connectionas to National, or in Ken Shirley’s case, to ACT, one of National’s coalition partners.

Brian Neeson

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

The appoint was made by the Minister –  without being interviewed, as is the usual process,

“It is the chair’s view that without interviews by an appropriately selected interview panel, the process will not provide an opportunity to properly assess the candidates suitability,” advice to Power in July last year said.

“The required skills cannot be evaluated without interview. He [Mr Hindle] has also expressed concern that the suggested appointment of member without interview would be at odds with the practice of past years“.” – Source

Which was unfortunate, as Neeson has a shocking record for anti-gay/lesbian beliefs that can only be described as homophobic.  He consistently voted against including gays/lesbians in protective Human Rights legislation and voted against legislation to outlaw employment discrimination based on gender. (See ” National’s version of ‘human rights’ ” at Tumeke, for full details.)

It is difficult to understand how someone of Mr Neeson’s beliefs can contribute to human rights issues in NZ, unless his appointment is specifically designed to curtail human rights for women and minority groups?

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Ravi Musuku

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Ken Shirley

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

Statement on Maori:

Graduation day at Te Wananga. Soon after the Labour Government came to office it started showering money on all things Maori. ” – NZ Herald

Soon after the Labour Government came to office, ushering in its flagship ‘Closing the Gaps’ programmes. It started showering money on all things Maori. ” – Ibid

Out of this Te Wananga o Aotearoa pocketed $5.8 million and said that would go a long way towards providing for its growth. ” – Ibid

But the Government went further. Closing the Gaps demanded even more taxpayer money be thrown at Maori. ” – Ibid

Despite its apparent concern, it has continued to shovel huge sums of taxpayer money to this institution – all in the name of the treaty. ” – Ibid

The Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commissioners have foreshadowed that the decision to allow the Maori Land Court to hear iwi claims to the foreshore and seabed of the Marlborough Sounds opens the way for similar claims around the country” ACT New Zealand Deputy Leader Ken Shirley said today.

I now call upon Prime Minister Helen Clark to act consistently, and to declare such claims off limits -as she recently did in the case of the claim for oil and gas reserves. In this instance, it was made quite clear that oil, gas and mineral reserves were vested in the Crown by legislation in 1937.”Press releases on Court of Appeal decision on foreshores and seabed, Recreation Access

I am again calling on the Labour Government to act decisively. It must spell out the bounds to claims – in order to prevent undue anxiety for tens of thousands of New Zealanders, and to ensure that iwi don’t waste any more time and money pursuing claims that should be off limits.” – Ibid

Hopefully Mr Shirley’s anti-Treaty and knee-jerk anti-Maori  beliefs will not be carried over to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

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.(Acknowledgement: David M. and Tumeke)

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Wayne Mapp

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Wayne Mapp (L) and John Key (R)

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Announced on 28 February 2012 by Judith Collins, the Minister Responsible for the Law Commission;  the appointment of  National’s  former Defence Minister, Wayne Mapp to the Commission.

Party positions held:

  • National MP from 1996 to 2011
  • Appointed as “Political Correctness Eradicator” in October 2005, by former National Party leader, Don Brash
  • Chair of National Caucus Policy Committee
  • Minister of Defence
  • Minister of Science and Innovation

Government appointments:

  • New Zealand  Law Commission

The Law Commission is an independent Crown entity under the Crown Entities Act 2004. It is funded by government and reviews areas of the law that need updating, reforming or developing. It makes recommendations to Parliament, and these recommendations are published in our report series.  The Law Commission helps to maintain the quality of New Zealand law to meet the current and future needs of our rapidly changing society. The Commission’s objective is to improve the quality, relevance and effectiveness of New Zealand law, by informing and supporting discussion on and making recommendations to Parliament for law reform.” – Source

I suspect that the Law Commission may have just become a somewhat less “independent Crown entity “.

(Acknowledgement: David M.)

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Kerry Prendergast

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L-R: John Banks (obscured), John Key, Maurice Williamson, Kerry Prendergast

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Best known as Wellington’s mayor from 2001 – 2010, Prendergast is also a member of the National Party.

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Government appointments:

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Sir Wira Gardiner

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Full Story

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Party Positions held:

Government appointments:

1. Background

2. Background

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Stephen McElrea

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Some weeks ago, a furore erupted when NZ on Air boardmember, Stephen McElrea, complained about the broadscasting of a document on TV3, just four days before the Elections last year.

The documentary was a highly critical look at growing child poverty in this country.

The timing of the documentary’s broadcasting  was criticised by Stephen McElrea, who complained that it was highly politicised and could impact of NZ on Air’s “impartiality”. There were suggestion made that NZ on Air should have authority over when programme  should be broadcast.

Some weeks ago, a furore erupted when NZ on Air boardmember, Stephen McElrea, complained about the broadscasting of a document on TV3, just four days before the Elections last year.

The documentary was a highly critical look at growing child poverty in this country.

The timing of the documentary’s broadcasting  was criticised by Stephen McElrea, who complained that it was highly politicised and could impact of NZ on Air’s “impartiality”. There were suggestion made that NZ on Air should have authority over when programme  should be broadcast.

***Update***

It appears that Stephen McElrea was part of a working group that has committed NZ on Air funding to a “documentary” on Whanau Ora.

Whanau Ora is a government department created under the National-Maori Party Coalition arrangement after the 2008 General Election.

NZ On Air states that the “documentary” will  look  at “how successful this new initiative will be in assisting NZ’s most deprived families” and that it would be  “a behind the scenes look at the roll out of this new initiative that seeks to deliver positive social outcomes for Maori“.

It is somewhat difficult to see how a documentary could determine that Whanau Ora  can be a “successful… new initiative … in assisting NZ’s most deprived families” when it is still barely operating. There have been no assessments or measured outcomes yet (to my knowledge) that would merit a “documentary” on Whanau Ora’s “success” or otherwise.

The fact that Stephen McElrea was a participant in the decision-making process to fund this “documentary/propaganda” is clear evidence that NZ On Airs  independence has been compromised.

This is the result of  government cronyism.

Source:  Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air

Additional

Scoop.co.nz:  PM has questions to answer over NZ on Air link

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Catherine Isaac

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An announcement was made on 1 February that ACT  member;  former ACT Party List candidate, and former ACT Party President, Catherine Isaac,  had been appointed to oversee the introduction of the government’s Charter  Schools programme in South Auckland and Christchurch. Ms Isaacs has no formal experience in the education field.

John Banks defended Isaac’s appointment was stating that she has sat of a School Board of Trustees for six years.

In which case, if I sat on a District Health board for a similar period of  time, would that qualify me to carry out  thoracic open-heart surgery? Well, I guess that would be one way to “train” our doctors on the cheap and get rid of that pesky, expensive Med School in Dunedin.

Party Positions held:

Government Appointments:

It seems abundantly obvious that Isaac’s appointment is to ensure that ACT’s Charter School policy is implemented without usual critical oversight, and to further ensure that results are presented in a “positive light” to the public.

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Katherine Rich (#1)

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(L-R) National MPs Simon Powell, Katherine Rich, former National leader Don Brash, National MPs Nathan Guy and Gerry Brownlee applaud John Key as he delivers his speech as the New Zealand National Party launch their election campaign at Sky City on October 12, 2008 in Auckland, New Zealand.

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The National-led Government is defending its appointment of the Food and Grocery Council chief executive to a board which will set up a new health promotion agency.

Katherine Rich has been appointed to the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

The move has outraged advocacy group Alcohol Action. Spokesperson Doug Sellman says Ms Rich has been one of the most vociferous defenders of the alcohol industry.

Professor Sellman says supermarkets normalise alcohol as an ordinary commodity and sell it by the tonne at ultra-cheap prices up to 24 hours a day.

He believes Ms Rich’s appointment is a major conflict of interest and indicates the Government wants to have the alcohol industry strongly represented in its preparations for the new agency.

“Seventy percent of the alcohol that’s sold in New Zealand comes through supermarkets and here we have a person in Katherine Rich who’s a staunch defender of the excessive commercialisation of alcohol, particularly though supermarkets, and she’s on a board that is presumably about decreasing the heavy drinking culture.”

The Labour Party agrees the appointment of Katherine Rich is too much a conflict of interest.” – Source, Radio NZ

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The Radio NZ report does raise an important question regarding her appointment to  the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

ALAC was an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of New Zealand’s considerable alcohol related (some say fueled) problems.

2009 BERL report estimated that “$4.437 million of diverted resources and lost welfare” could be directly attributed to alcohol abuse. That $4.4 billion  is reflected in  ACC, hospital admissions, crime, family violence, lost productivity, etc, and places a firm dollar cost on the harm that alcohol abuse is causing NZ society. These are costs we all pay for through ACC levies and taxes spent on medical intervention; policing; and the justice system.

Whilst working for the Food and Grocery Council, Ms Rich was a firm advocate of liberal laws surrounding marketting and retailing of alcohol,

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The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) and Alcohol Advisory Council (Alac) strongly backed the recommendations.

Alac chief executive Gerard Vaughan said it set out a clear objective of reducing alcohol-related harm which stretched to structure and role changes for the district licensing agencies responsible for managing liquor licensing in their own communities.

Communities up and down the country were sick of the violence and vandalism that came with drinking and that proposed changes to licencing regimes would help address the problem, Mr Vaughan said.

Nearly 3000 submissions were received by the commission, many of which supported the tightening of laws around alcohol sales, purchasing and consumption.

But NZ Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said the report reflected “classic nanny state thinking.”

It failed to target those causing the problems and punished everyone, she said. The industry was already one of the most regulated, and more sensible ways to approach existing problems included better enforcement of current rules and better use of legal powers, along with industry-led initiatives.”   Source

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New Zealand has a $4 billion-plus problem with alcohol abuse (BERL report) and Katherine Rich dismissed attempts to address this crisis as “classic nanny state thinking“?

It is worthwhile reflecting that since liquor laws were de-regulated in the mid 1980s (as part of the wave of Rogernomics “reforms”), that 25 years later things have gotten steadily worse.

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Mervyn English

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Full Story

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Though the State Services Commissioner  did find that they were satisfied with English’s appointment, one has to question why  the position was not publicly advertised, as is common practice?

Even if the SSC is satisfied of no inappropriateness, this brings up a valid point; how can we differentiate between blatant political appointees and those made on merit, if the entire system is brought into disrepute? Public perception is growing that this government is stacking various organisation Boards with party apparatchiks – and judging by recent events, that perception is not misplaced.

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Jenny Shipley

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Party Positions held:

  • National Party MP 1987 – 2002
  • Various ministerial portfolios
  • Prime Minister 1997 – 1999

Government appointments:

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Carried on at Frankly Speaking: Crony Watch

* Carrying on, where the National Business Review left of, in November 2008. (Which, by sheer coincidence, is when National took power.)

 

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Christchurch, choice, and charter schools

15 September 2012 17 comments

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National is a Party of choice. National loves to give individuals choice. National hates the idea of  “Nanny State” taking away the individuals’ right of  choice and governments making decisions on their behalf. National believes that  individuals know better than the state.

“Choice is good”.

“State decisionmaking is bad”.

According to National.

Which is why, when National announced it would be adopting ACT’s policy of implementing Charter Schools (in poor areas only – but no doubt that was just a coincidence), choice was high on the list of rationale’s for this policy,

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Full Story

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Dear Leader John Key stated,

” It’s a step towards more choice, at the end of the day I expect the vast bulk of schools will be the same as they are now.”

See: Ibid

Little Dear Leader, Bill English, parrotted the Party line; Charter Schools offered choice,

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the member knows, the issue of whether teachers are qualified is being discussed in the context of charter schools, which will offer an element of choice, although a very small element of choice, in the general school system. All other schools will continue to run with registered teachers.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: In respect of the State-run schools, no. In respect of the charter schools, it is an aspect of providing choices for young New Zealanders that are not currently available to them. “

See: Parliament: Questions for Oral Answer

National MP for Maungakiekie, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, repeated the mantra (in case we missed it the first time),

With our Government’s focus on raising achievement for all our students, I see partnership schools as just another option for our parents and students. It will give them more freedom to choose the type of education that best suits their children’s learning needs.

See: Scoop.co.nz – Partnership Schools are Good for High Needs Communities

And the only human member of ACT with high-functioning mental processes, Catherine Isaac, chipped in (as it was ACT policy after all – even though it had never been announced during last year’s election campaign),

Well, what is different is that these schools are going to get greater freedom to innovate, to find different ways of engaging with children who are struggling to learn, and you need more opportunities, more freedom... “

See: Scoop.co.nz – Q+A – Corin Dann interviews Catherine Isaac and Ian Leckie

It is abundantly clear that National’s preference is always; choice. Lots and lots of choice!

Except…

When National takes away an entire city’s choice.

Like with Christchurch,

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Full story

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On 13 September, National announced the closure or mergers of dozens of schools in the quake-hit city of Christchurch. Amongst those closing or merging, according to  NBR and Radio NZ stories on 14 September,

Schools to close include:

  • Aranui High years 1 to 13
  • Aranui Primary
  • Banks Avenue Primary, or relocate depending on geotech report
  • Branston Intermediate
  • Burnham Primary
  • Burnside Primary
  • Chisnallwood Intermediate years 1 to 13
  • Duvauchelles Primary
  • Glenoor Primary
  • Greenpark Primary
  • Hammersley Park Primary
  • Le Bons Bay Primary
  • Linwood Intermediate
  • Manning Intermediate
  • Ricmond Primary
  • Wainoni Primary

Who will merge:

Avonside Girls High will merge with Christchurch Girls High as a “dual shift” or may close depending on geotech report.
Christchurch Boys High will possibly merge with Shirley Boys High as a “dual shift”.
Central New Brighton Primary will merge with New Brighton Primary.
Burwood School and Windsor School on Windsor School site
Discovery One School and Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti as Year 1 to 13 school
Freeville and New Brighton North School
Linwood Avenue School and Bromley School on Bromley School site
Lyttleton Main School and Lyttleton West School
Philipstown School and Woolston School (moving to new site)
South New Brighton School and Central New Brighton School
Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o te Whanau and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Waitaha

See:  Up to 13 Chch schools to be closed, as many as 18 will merge

See:  13 schools to close, others to merge in Christchurch

The shock news was delivered to a packed meeting of  principles and Boards of Trustees members by these three,

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DELIVERING THE NEWS: Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, Education Minister Hekia Parata and Secretary for Education Lesley Longstone deliver the news.

Source

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The proposed closures and mergers would result in hundreds of teachers losing their jobs; thousands of students uprooted and moved; and the remaining  centres of communities – which have lost many of their infra-structure and services – finally eradicated.

The response from many Christchurch education-sector workers, parents, and residents was unsurprisingly one of anger and disgust. It seems that what the earthquakes had begun – National was hellbent on finishing off.

For many, this was an unprovoked, unforeseen, craven attack on their communities,

I state here and now … Shirley Boys’ High School as a school exists and will continue to exist – mark it. There is no way in God’s creation that we cease to exist. (source)

We are not going to merge for the most practical reason. I have 1300 students in the school I think Trevor McIntyre at Christchurch Boys’ will have something similar.

To simply say that Shirley closes and suddenly Christchurch Boys’ High School is equipped to double in size is absurd. They don’t have the land, they don’t have the infrastructure. It’s nonsense. (source)”

– John Laurenson, Shirley Boys’ High School principal

I just don’t understand what’s going on . . . my boy’s got three years left and I didn’t want him to move.

We live nearby and yes, it’s damaged but this is our community so you can’t just pick us up and move us.”

Tracey Dearden, Parent

We’ve got five classrooms at our school, excellent staff doing wonderful things and just can’t for the life of me see why they would want to close Ouruhia.”

” I wonder how many people who were staying so their kids had stability and didn’t have to be uprooted from schools, will now leave and follow all the others to Brisbane… say 20 schools x 500 pupils/school… is a lot of affected families…. “

Anonymous

Men and women are in tears at the possibility of losing their jobs, their schools and communities.

Schools are the focal point of their communities. Schools are identified by the names of their community. Families now have to gravitate, take their children to other places, create new identities.

This is going to affect families in a major way. This is going to affect parents in a major way, just like it is going to affect teachers and children.”

Paul Kennedy, Cathedral Grammar school headmaster

Our house is TC3 and everything around this school is red-zoned pretty much, but Banks Ave has been the one and only constant in their lives since the earthquakes.

Children had gone through enough without having their school taken off them“.

Haley Thompson, Parent

We got more than we bargained for today.”

Philip Harding, Paparoa Street School principal

 “Where are the kids supposed to go? Haven’t we been through enough? Half the kids are on medication because of the earthquakes.”

Thea Turner, Parent

No parent is going to enrol their child in an intermediate school that they know is closing so already we’re looking at losing half our pupil population next year alone.

I need to look after my staff, maintain the quality of teaching and keep looking after the children because they’ve been heroes since the quakes . . . everyone has gone through so much and now we have to go through this.”

Geoff Siave, Shirley Intermediate principal

As this blogger pointed out above; National loves choice.

Except when it’s not convenient.

Then it will  act with all the ruthlessness of a mad Arab dictator or  ex-Soviet Asiatic republic that never quite “got democracy“.

National will give us the ‘choice’ of Charter schools, whether we want them or not.

Whilst at the same time it will gut the heart out of Christchurch, inflicting more heartache, stress, misery, and uncertainty on a city that has endured more than the rest of us could possibly imagine.

I leave the reader with this piece, taken from a National Party 2011 policy-document on education,

12. Support Canterbury

Rebuilding Canterbury is a top priority for National. We supported the people of Canterbury in the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes and we are committed to getting greater Christchurch back on its feet over the coming months and years.

National:

• Ensured all schools were up and running eight weeks after the February earthquake.
• Double-funded students who moved out of Christchurch for 2011. That is, we funded the Christchurch school they no longer attended and also funded the school outside of Christchurch they did attend.
• Created new exemptions so that Christchurch students would not unfairly miss out on NCEA qualifications.

National will rebuild the Canterbury school network

* Ensure schools make the most of their facilities and resources, and they collaborate rather than compete with each other.
* Ensure there is a range of education provision so parents can continue to have choice about what type of school they send their children to.
Schools in Christchurch will become part of the most advanced schooling network in New Zealand with facilities that support education in the 21st Century.

See: National Party – Education in Schools – Building Better Public Services

Choice.

We all have it.

Especially on Election Day.

Christchurch schools

Lest We Forget

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Additional

Scoop.co.nz: Christchurch schools to reopen as charter schools?

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Q+A – 5 August 2012

5 August 2012 13 comments

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Q+A,  Charter schools

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See video

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The highly contentious issue of Charter Schools was canvassed on Q+A this morning (5 August). Corin Dann interviewed  NZEI President Ian Leckie and Former ACT president Catherine Isaac.

The Associate Minister for Education and ACT Party MP, John Banks, was nowhere to be seen. Curiously, it was left up to Catherine Isaac – not an elected member of Parliament – to front on the issue of Charter schools.

As Corin Dann said to Ms Isaacs,

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CORIN OK, Ian Leckie, thank you. Now, Catherine, just finally, is it disappointing-? Are you disappointed that John Banks couldn’t come on this morning and front this issue? I mean, he’s your minister, your person in Parliament. We were pretty disappointed that he couldn’t come on.

ISAAC I couldn’t comment on that. I’m not sure why he couldn’t come on. I haven’t discussed that with him.

CORIN Well, it seems to be… Our feeling is that he’s reluctant, because he may be asked questions about the saga, of course, that’s been running over donations. And why I’m asking you this question is because does that make him an ineffectual minister to be fronting this flagship policy of your party’s?

ISAAC I’m sure you’ll find he’ll be fronting it.

CORIN So he won’t-? Does that mean he’d be-?

ISAAC Well, I can’t speak for him, of course, but he’s very positive about this policy. He’s extremely excited about it, and I’m sure you’ll see him appearing as often as he can.

CORIN But as a high-ranking party member, can you speak for the party? It must be disappointing.

ISAAC I can’t speak for the party. I’m not an official of the party, so I can’t speak for the party. But I think that you will find that John Banks will be a powerful advocate for this policy.

CORIN Do you think he’s been unfairly treated by the media and others?

ISAAC I don’t have a view on that.

CORIN You don’t have a view at all?

ISAAC I don’t

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See: Q+A: Transcript of Catherine Issac and Ian Leckie interview

Corin Dann has summed it up perfectly; John Banks has become  an ineffectual Minister when he is no longer able to front to explain radical new policies that National/ACT are implementing. It’s fairly obvious Banks is too frightened to appear where journalists are in a position to ask him hard questions over the Undeclared Donations saga.

It is also astounding that Catherine Isaacs appeared for National/ACT, when, as she herself stated,

“I can’t speak for the party. I’m not an official of the party, so I can’t speak for the party.”

If she can’t speak for the ACT Party – what was she doing, fronting on Q+A, to promote Charter Schools, which is ACT policy?

Maybe John Banks just ‘forgot’ to turn up for the interview?

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Q+A, Fred Pearce

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Of particular interest to us should be journalist and author of  ‘The Landgrabbers: The new fight over who owns the Earth‘, Fred Pearce,

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See video

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Pearce was interviewed over the critical issue of foreign buy-ups of arable farmland threoughout the world. Pearce revealed that buy-ups of land wasn’t just occurring here in New Zealand – but was taking place in Africa, South America, and elsewhere.

He was adamant in stating that the “land grabs” were part of a process of certain nations securing food sources at a time in our history when this will become a critical issue. He stated, in part,

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JESSICA Are we right to be jumpy here in New Zealand?

PEARCE I think you are, actually, because you’re a relatively small country. Your land is valuable. Clearly there’s a lot of interest internationally in your dairy farming. There’s a tradition of German interest in New Zealand. And it could easily get out of hand, but it’s still relatively small-scale in New Zealand. Now, the figures I’ve seen suggest 1% or perhaps 2% of New Zealand farmland is in foreign hands, and while that could increase, that’s a heck of a lot less than, say, Liberia in West Africa, where two-thirds of all their land is now under some kind of concession to foreign investors, or South Sudan, the new state that was just set up a year ago in Africa, where 10% of all the land had been given away in some kind of lease deal to foreigners even before the state was created, before they’d raised the flag. So, you know, on the scale of things, New Zealand isn’t in a bad state. But you do have to watch out, because there is a huge kind of land rush round the world going on, and prospectors and national governments and big corporations in expanding nations like China and India are looking out for really quite large areas of land, and if they can get hold of them and at a good price, then they will.

JESSICA Why does it matter whether its foreigners or locals who own the land?

PEARCE Well, maybe it doesn’t matter. In good times, people will invest and it probably won’t matter too much. But in bad times, it can be a problem. And you have to say that land is a very fundamental asset for a country. There’s nothing much more fundamental than land to a nation. And if you sell or give long leases on that land to foreign entities, then you lose control of it. You have much more democratic control, if push comes to shove, with a nationally owned company than you do with a foreign-owned company. But it is also true that we’re all part of a global economy now. Even if the company that owns the land is based in New Zealand, it may well have bankers who are abroad. So we can’t, I think, sort of put up very high walls around our country. But we do need to have democratic accountability. We need make sensible democratic decisions about how much we’re prepared to give land to other countries or other countries. Now, they may bring in expertise, which we want; they may bring in finance that we want. But there again, they may be out for a quick hit. They may be wanting to make a quick profit and not really contribute to the national economy, and those are the kind of things that one has to look out for. As I say, I think New Zealand is a kind of grown-up nation. New Zealand can look after itself. But many – especially in Africa – small, new, poor nations really do have great difficulty in keeping control of their assets if rich foreigners want to come calling.

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See: Q+A: Transcript of Fred Pearce interview

It seems that we New Zealanders were right to be concerned with offshore investors buying up arable land and that we risk losing control of this valuable asset at our peril.

Whether foreign ownership emanates from Berlin, Beijing, or Boston – be concerned. Be very concerned.

As Pearce said about land,

You know, they’re not making land any more, so, you know, you’ve got to look after what you have. 

By the way, as a side-note; during the video interview with Pearce, an object appeared at the top right of the screen. It faded away momentarily, then came back brighter and more defined.

Anyone got any ideas what it was? (Cue: the X-Files  theme.)

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Q+A, Paul Holmes

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Also on TVNZ’s Q+A this morning; Paul Holmes.

But not the Paul Holmes we’ve known since 1989, when he first  beamed into our  homes.

This morning, Paul looked terrible;  gaunt, weak, with shaky voice – the result of recent open-heart surgery. At one point he had to reach and grasp an object to support himself on his feet. His appearance was so shocking that at any moment I expected him to collapse,

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Source

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What was TVNZ thinking, allowing him on-air?

It was irresponsible.

It was heart-wrenching, watching him struggle to stay on his feet.

Not good, TVNZ.

And for Paul,

Get well soon, mate.  You’ve got too much work to do, skivving of up on that farm of yours. TV is not the same without your impish grin on our TV screens.

Get better, please.

And we’ll see you back, when you’re 100% again!

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Minister for whut?!?!

10 February 2012 6 comments

It appears that ACT is  in a world of it’s own…

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Source

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Don Brash resigned as Leader of ACT on 26 November – about two and a half  months ago.

But perhaps even more curious is this,

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Source

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There is no such portfolio as “Minister of Parliament for Epsom”.

At best, John Banks is the MP (Member of Parliament ) for Epsom.

And of course, there was this little item I blogged about back in December, last year,

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Source

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It’s interesting that ACT has managed to “update” the above page by adding a Facebook  “Like” button, and a Google “+1” button – but have not yet figured out that they have only one MP (John Banks) – not five, as pictured.

This would be mildly amusing (and not really worthwhile to blog about) – except that ACT is now on course to implement it’s unpopular and ideologically-based, “Charter Schools” policy (which was never mandated by voters, as it was never raised as a public issue), and has appointed Catherine Isaac (ex-ACT President, and ACT List candidate for 2011 Election) to oversee the implementation of Charter Schools.

This re-structuring of part of our education is a major change to our education system, and has the potential to impact on the lives of an entire generation of children.

It seems inconceivable that the implementation of this radical, controversial policy, is in the hands of people who don’t know how many MPs they have in Parliament; who their Leader is;  employ Parliamentary titles that don’t exis; and can’t be bothered to update on-line information.

What, exactly, should we trust about ACT?

This should be cause for concern for all New Zealanders.

For the record:

  • John Banks is not the “Minister” for Epsom – he is the Member of Parliament for Epsom.
  • The term “Minister for Epsom” does not exist.
  • ACT has one MP, not five.
  • None of the five persons depicted on the ACT webpage as “MPs” are MPs  (none stood for re-election in 2011).
  • Don Brash is not the Leader of ACT.

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Acknowledgements for this story

Previous Blog post

ACT woefully behind the times?

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A Very National Coup?

1 February 2012 4 comments

Some weeks ago, a furore erupted when NZ on Air boardmember, Stephen McElrea, complained about the broadscasting of a document on TV3, just four days before the Elections last year.

The documentary was a highly critical look at growing child poverty in this country.

The timing of the documentary’s broadcasting  was criticised by Stephen McElrea, who complained that it was highly politicised and could impact of NZ on Air’s “impartiality”. There were suggestion made that NZ on Air should have authority over when programme  should be broadcast.

Stephen McElrea is also John Key’s Electorate Secretary and a Regional Deputy Chair for the National Party,

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The public debate quickly re-focused on Mr McElrea’s appointment to NZ on Air’s Board, and how that impacted on that organisation’s impartiality.

NZ on Air has recently announced that it will not be seeking to influence broadcasting scheduling.

It is apparent that Mr McElrea’s position on NZ on Air’s Board has given the National Party a measure of influence within that organisation.

Today (1 February) an announcement was made that ACT  member;  former Party List candidate and former Party President, Catherine Isaac,  has been appointed to oversee the introduction of the government’s Charter  Schools programme in South Auckland and Christchurch,

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Source

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Ms Isaac is a businesswoman but with no education experience.

John Banks defends her appointment by stating,

Ms Isaac is a well-respected, competent business person who was also a member of a school board of trustees for six years.” – Source

Really?!

Using that bizarre style of  “logic”, a member of a District Health Board is qualified to conduct surgery if s/he has been in that role for six years? Medical school experience is not a requirement?

I wonder if John Banks would be comfortable with an untrained District Health Board member doing a wee bit of brain surgery on him… as long as said-member has been on the Board for six years?!

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I can see an opportunity here for some cost-cutting: we obviously won’t be needing Medical Schools anymore.

Aside from Ms Isaac’s unquestioned ability to make money, and a strong ability to sit on a School Board and discuss acquisition of toilet paper and pencils – precisely what experience in education dores she have?

And do parents feel comfortable in an unqualified, inexperienced person effectively re-structuring our schools?

It beggars belief that the government has allowed Ms Isaac’s appointment to proceed.  Surely someone on the Beehive Ninth Floor must have their “spidey sense” tingling, and considering the issue more deeply,

Hang on, this is not a good idea. This could make us look bad in the public eye. And if she f**ks up, we’ll cop the flak…”

It appears that Ms Isaac’s sole attribute for this position – like Stephen McElrea’s appointment to NZ on Air’s Board – is Party affiliation.

This is yet another naked positioning of power in our bureacracy. Like One Party states throughout history, National is maximising it’s influence by appointing Party cadres throughout the system.

This is comparable to the old Soviet Bloc, where people had to be card-carrying members of the local communist party before being appointed to a good job.

It appears that National is borrowing from those now-defunct systems?

We have also had the following appointees. Make of them what you will,

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Full Story

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Katherine Rich has been appointed to the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

The move has outraged advocacy group Alcohol Action. Spokesperson Doug Sellman says Ms Rich has been one of the most vociferous defenders of the alcohol industry.

Professor Sellman says supermarkets normalise alcohol as an ordinary commodity and sell it by the tonne at ultra-cheap prices up to 24 hours a day.Ibid

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The Labour Party agrees the appointment of Katherine Rich is too much a conflict of interest.

Health spokesperson Grant Robertson told Radio New Zealand while he holds Ms Rich personally in high regard, he believes her role with the Food and Grocery Council does clash with being part of such an agency.

“I think the linkage with her role supporting and advocating for the supermarkets is unfortunate and doesn’t sit well with the health promotion role that the future agency will have.”

However, in a written statement on Saturday, Health Minister Tony Ryall says Ms Rich, a former National MP, was appointed for her experience, balance and integrity.” Ibid

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(L-R) National MPs Simon Powell, Katherine Rich, former National leader Don Brash, National MPs Nathan Guy and Gerry Brownlee applaud John Key as he delivers his speech as the New Zealand National Party launch their election campaign at Sky City on October 12, 2008 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Source

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The Radio NZ report does raise an important question regarding her appointment to  the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

ALAC was an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of New Zealand’s considerable alcohol related (some say fueled) problems.

2009 BERL report estimated that “$4.437 million of diverted resources and lost welfare” could be directly attributed to alcohol abuse. That $4.4 billion  is reflected in  ACC, hospital admissions, crime, family violence, lost productivity, etc, and places a firm dollar cost on the harm that alcohol abuse is causing NZ society. These are costs we all pay for through ACC levies and taxes spent on medical intervention; policing; and the justice system.

Whilst working for the Food and Grocery Council, Ms Rich was a firm advocate of liberal laws surrounding marketting and retailing of alcohol.,

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) and Alcohol Advisory Council (Alac) strongly backed the recommendations.

Alac chief executive Gerard Vaughan said it set out a clear objective of reducing alcohol-related harm which stretched to structure and role changes for the district licensing agencies responsible for managing liquor licensing in their own communities.

Communities up and down the country were sick of the violence and vandalism that came with drinking and that proposed changes to licencing regimes would help address the problem, Mr Vaughan said.

Nearly 3000 submissions were received by the commission, many of which supported the tightening of laws around alcohol sales, purchasing and consumption.

But NZ Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said the report reflected “classic nanny state thinking.”

It failed to target those causing the problems and punished everyone, she said. The industry was already one of the most regulated, and more sensible ways to approach existing problems included better enforcement of current rules and better use of legal powers, along with industry-led initiatives.”   Source

New Zealand has a $4 billion-plus problem with alcohol abuse (BERL report) and Katherine Rich dismissed attempts to address this crisis as “classic nanny state thinking“.

It is worthwhile reflecting that since liquor laws were de-regulated in the mid 1980s (as part of the wave of Rogernomics “reforms”), that 25 years later things have gotten steadily worse.

And then we had this little “gem”, back in September last year,

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Full Story

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One has to question why  the position was not advertised, as is common practice? The State Services Commissioner  did find that he was satisfied with English’s appointment.

If so, this brings up a valid point; how can we differentiate between blatant political appointees and those made on merit, if the entire system is brought into disrepute? Public perception is growing that this government is stacking various organisation Boards with party apparatchiks – and judging by recent events, that perception is not misplaced.

This Blog will keep an eye out for more political Party appointees.

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Postscript

ACT’s ability to oversee the implementation of it’s radical “Charter Schools” policy is questionable, when it cannot even keep it’s own website up-to-date.

Question: How many MPs does ACT have in Parliament?

Answer: 1.

But not according to their website, which still shows their muster of five MPs from last year. Oh dear,

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(And John Banks nowhere to be seen.)

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***

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Previous Blog stories

Has National declared class-war on New Zealand?

Privatisation of our schools?!

Additional

Scoop: Tom Frewen – NZ on Air Spooked by Political Interference

National: Northern Region

National: Helensville Electorate

ACT: Catherine Isaac

Radio NZ: ACT member appointed to oversee charter trial

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